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Richard Day: Cold in Minnesota, and in the Hearts of Men
On an explosive day in the Middle East, John McCain has just appeared on Fox News telling the folks in Arkansas as well as those in the Islamic world that radical Muslims have properly perceived America's weaknesses. According to McCain the U.S. is, in fact, weak and it is a known fact that we are withdrawing from the region. Taken at face value McCain's comments could be seen as encouragement to radical Islamist groups to keep testing our embassies around the world. Perhaps our enemies could scale additional compound walls, and sensing the opportunity for a kill, recruit even more radicals and increase the mob violence to a point where it is no longer controllable.
One wonders how far McCain would go in wishing for the kind of conflagration which would repeat the Iranian hostage crisis---and like Jimmy Carter before him, topple President Obama. Well, McCain hasn't been able to do it himself, but maybe he can get a little help from the angry Muslims.
I'm trying to put myself in the shoes of an American right now inside one of those embassies watching on camera the mobs outside. I served as a military officer in the aftermath of Korea and was stationed in Japan. While I never experienced combat I once encountered an angry mob at a train station in Tokyo. Trying to catch a late train back to the naval base I walked right into a militant labor wing rally--- in which I stood out like a sore thumb. A few guys started moving toward me and I backed out of the station and jumped into a cab which was about four feet long. After some terse words with the driver he finally got going, demonstrators trying to circle us outside. I had a similar experience trying to return a rental car in Newark, getting lost, and winding up in a blind alley in a ghetto. Guys pounding on the car windows and mob anger are not circumstances anyone wants to encounter.
So how do embassy workers, and even marines, feel watching Fox News in a foreign country and having John McCain essentially say we are weak and backing out of the region? Personally, I don't think it would make me admire McCain, and I think I might want to email him about it.
On this day of potential escalating violence against American diplomats and military personnel abroad, the Republicans are attempting to undercut Obama by using the demonstrations and violence as a signal of American weakness. Is this how far we have come in our political discourse, to undercut the President of the United States at a time when we are under attack? Is it not enough to have Republicans charge that Obama is "apologizing" for America---which is an outright lie? Do we have to encourage violence by communicating to the world that we are divided at home? Hey, Americans are fighting among themselves, good time to strike!
I don't think anyone can predict the extent of the violence which will unfold in the Middle East. Nor for that matter, how much these events will influence the election. Thus far, Romney's strategy of distorting Medicare cuts and Welfare work rules has not cut any ice outside the Republican base. If the public has so far not bought Romney's brand of distortion and scapegoating I don't see them buying into this new round of defining Obama as an "apologist" in Foreign affairs. And Romney's untimely and intemperate remarks have most likely ruined his chances for objectivity in any of the Middle East and Foreign Policy debates we should and will be having. I don't think Obama can be brought down by these events, but I don't think we are near the end of the uprisings.
A sixth grader can perceive Romney's new strategy. He tones down his rhetoric. McCain and others become the attack dogs. And Ryan, who no one listens to anyway, can appear at a Family Values conference and make inane comments on Foreign Policy---about which he knows nothing except that which Dan Senor has tried to teach him over the past three weeks. It's a pretty sad arrangement all around.
As for John McCain, a man whom I once admired, his bitterness---which IMO is really against Bush but will forever be transferred to Obama---is so apparent that I shouldn't worry about his effect on our own election. But I do worry about those radical enemies overseas who may unwittingly continue to give him some credibility.